6 Teams That Will Depend Most on 2014 Recruits Next Season
For all you armchair accountants out there, did you know that a handful of college football teams will use the LIFO method of inventory management in 2014?
Yes, LIFO, or “last in, first out,” assumes that the newest products received—or newest recruits signed— are used first, as opposed to utilizing what’s already in the warehouse or on the roster.
Think about it this way: If you dump a bunch of marbles into a barrel that is already half full, it makes more sense to sell the ones on the top than wasting time digging through to the bottom.
In college football, LIFO works a little differently: Programs are forced to use it when they lose a bunch of talent to inevitable attrition (graduation, the draft, etc.) and must rely more heavily on the most recent crop of recruits.
The bigger the personnel turnover and the higher-ranked the incoming talent, the more LIFO is necessary and advantageous.
In other words, here’s a look at which programs in 2014 will be counting on their stellar rookies to contribute in a big way because a bunch of guys graduated or declared for the NFL draft.
After posting a 9-4 record in 2013, the Badgers are set to return only nine starters this season. This number gives them the No. 122 ranking in the FBS and the No. 14 ranking—or dead last—in the expanded Big Ten.
Back are six starters on an offense that ranked No. 27 in scoring, including four to an offensive line that led the No. 8-ranked rushing offense as opposed to the No. 95-ranked passing attack.
Most alarming for Wisconsin are the mere three starters due back to a defense that finished the season ranked No. 6 in scoring. The Badgers held opponents to a paltry 16.3 points per game in 2013; only Bowling Green, Alabama, Michigan State, Louisville and Florida State were better.
The defensive number includes none of the front seven that ranked No. 5 versus the run but three members of the secondary that ranked No. 17 against the pass.
The good news is the Badgers just signed their highest-ranked recruiting class since 2005, according to Rivals.
Though this doesn’t mean that Wisconsin doesn’t have any guys who are waiting in the wings to fill the holes, it does mean that the incoming freshmen represent a new level of talent at a time of extreme need.
This combines for a scenario where young guys will get a chance to play sooner than later.
After capturing its first conference title since winning a share of the old Southwest Conference in 1994, Baylor comes into 2014 depleted.
The Bears welcome back only nine starters this season: five to the No. 1-ranked scoring offense from a year ago and four to the No. 36-ranked scoring defense. That ties them for last in the Big 12 and No. 122 in the FBS.
The good news for Baylor fans is at least the experience is spread across the team, which is better than what Wisconsin will deal with.
Back are only two starters on the offensive line, but two guys from the defensive line are back too, which at least lends some stability to both sides of the ball.
A direct result of their recent success, the Bears’ last two recruiting classes represent their biggest wins in school history. The class of 2013 came in at No. 29, and the 2014 haul was ranked No. 34, both according to Rivals.
This makes Baylor a team that will rely on its sophomores and freshmen more so than its upperclassmen.
After returning only eight starters in 2013, Kansas State has another rebuilding task in 2014 with only nine starters back on campus.
This makes it second to last in the Big 12 and No. 112 overall in the FBS.
Though the offense has a somewhat healthy six back, the No. 31-ranked scoring defense brings back just four starters.
Three are back from the front seven and one from the secondary.
While K-State’s No. 46-ranked class of 2014 may not seem like banner news, it’s the best class the Wildcats have inked since 2008, when they signed the No. 27-rated group.
This means that the young kids are the highest-rated talent on the team and not many older guys have starting experience.
The X-factor for Bill Snyder and Kansas State has always been success in attracting top JUCO transfers.
So, while the Wildcats will be no doubt rely on younger players, they’ll also continue to grab some seasoned guys from the community college level to beef up the roster.
The Sun Devils scored 10 wins in 2014—their best showing since 2007 when they went 10-3 in Dennis Erickson’s first season.
With all the momentum created by Todd Graham during his second season, it’s unfortunate that Arizona State will return a mere 10 starters in 2014.
This puts the team dead last in the Pac-12 and tied for No. 112 overall in the FBS.
The good news is that seven guys are back on offense for a unit that finished the season No. 10 in points. The bad news is that only three return to the defense that ranked No. 64 in scoring.
Back are two members of the front seven and one guy from the secondary that ranked No. 72 in pass defense.
The upside to the task of filling the holes—especially on defense—is that the Sun Devils just inked their best signing class in six years, according to Rivals.
The class of 2014 ranked a lofty No. 22 in the nation, earning the Sun Devils the No. 4 spot in the Pac-12 behind USC (No. 10), Stanford (No. 14) and UCLA (No. 18).
Included in the haul are a whopping seven 4-star recruits. Available to the Arizona State defense will be 4-star linebacker Derick Calhoun, 4-star defensive end Connor Humphreys and 4-star defensive tackle Dalvon Stuckey.
Missouri’s magical 12-2 run in 2013 will be difficult to repeat with only nine starters coming back for 2014.
This makes the Tigers the least experienced team in the SEC and ties them for No. 122 overall in the FBS.
Back are five members of the offense—which blazed to a No. 12 ranking in scoring last season—including three members of the offensive line.
On defense—a unit which ranked No. 34 in scoring but was only No. 109 against the pass—Mizzou welcomes back a mere four starters: three from the front seven and one from the secondary.
Unfortunately, the Tigers have yet to experience a bump in recruiting with the move to the SEC. That said, they did manage the No. 35-ranked recruiting class this year, which puts them on par with what they have achieved since 2012.
The flip side to this positive approach is that Missouri only out-recruited two SEC teams in 2014: Mississippi State at No. 41 and Vanderbilt at No. 50. The other 11 teams in the conference all brought in higher-ranked classes.
The bottom line for the Tigers is that they’ll need the young guys to step up quickly to fill some of the more gaping holes.
On defense, the Tigers welcome a whopping four 3-star defensive backs, one 3-star linebacker and a pair of 3-star defensive ends.
Tennessee could have been on a list like this for the past several years.
Despite limited success, the Volunteers have continued to recruit top-tier classes. In fact they haven’t fallen out of the Top 20 in class rankings since 2008 when they brought in the No. 35-rated group.
The only question is: When will the wins on signing day translate into wins on game day for Tennessee?
For 2014, the program welcomes back only 10 starters from its 5-7 product from last year, which is a good thing or a bad thing, depending on how you look at it.
On one hand, the Vols bring back a mere five starters to an offense that struggled to a No. 95 ranking in scoring, while on the other hand, maybe the turnover is a good thing.
On defense, Tennessee brings back five starters to a unit that ranked No. 76 in scoring. Again, it’s up in the air as to whether the attrition is a negative or a positive in hiding.
What makes things more difficult for the Volunteers is that their experience levels are not evenly distributed: Four of the five returning starters on offense are receivers/tight ends, and four of the five on defense are in the secondary.
This means that are no returning starters to either line of scrimmage.
The real upside for Tennessee is that it just celebrated its best recruiting class since 2007. This year’s group was rated No. 5 by Rivals, only two spots lower than the ’07 bunch, which rated No. 3.
This makes the Volunteers the program that is most likely to use the LIFO method of talent management. In other words, this team will need to use its new recruits to win games the most.
Tennessee’s most recent signing class includes 16 4-star recruits—the most of any team in the nation, according to Rivals—and also features two 5-star guys: running back Jalen Hurd and wide receiver Josh Malone.
To aid the rebuilding project in the trenches, look for 4-star defensive ends Derek Barnett, Dewayne Hendrix and Joe Henderson, 4-star defensive tackle Michael Sawyers and 4-star offensive lineman Dontavius Blair to get early playing time.